LEAVENWORTH — Washington firefighters once again find themselves in harm’s way. More than 120 are trying to stop the Eagle Wildfire that’s burning in steep terrain five miles northeast of Leavenworth. And more from King County and East Pierce County are headed to help.
The Eagle fire is burning near the top of a ridge between Eagle Creek and Bjork Canyon with winds pushing it northeast, away from Leavenworth but homes are in the fire’s path.
“I’ve lived in this territory all my life and I’ve seen lots and lots of fires,” homeowner Brian Hinthorne said
In fact, Hinthorne is a former firefighter.
His home is safe, for now, but he sees in this fire the potential for great destruction.
“In most summer conditions a fire at that location is very dangerous. That could really go miles and cause a lot of trouble,” Hinthorne said.
Sixty-five homes are affected along Eagle Creek.
Most are under Level 2 evacuation orders, which means prepare to leave but 21 are currently under Level 3 mandatory evacuation orders.
A lot of the firefighters on the front lines of the Eagle wildfire were also on the front lines of the Colockum Tarps fire but this one is different and potentially a lot more dangerous.
“The Colockum Tarps was a lot of light and medium fuels. This has light, medium and some heavy fuels in it. Over the back side some of the bigger smoke you’re seeing in the background that’s timber that’s burning,” Eagle wildfire spokesman Rick Isaacson said.
Tall trees that can burn fast, extremely hot and jump from treetop to treetop.
“It’s burning in really steep terrain. It’s mountainous up here so you get steep sides on both sides. It’s hard to fight the fire,” Isaacson said.
Some 120 firefighters are on the job and that number is expected to grow to more than 300 in the coming hours and days.
The fight is very aggressive from the air to protect homes and lives on the ground.
“We’ve got a bomber going through with retardant. We’ve got three helicopters that we’re working this afternoon,” Isaacson said.
Late Tuesday evening, homeowners gathered at the Chelan Fire District 3 station to get information and comfort.
“Apparently the fire has been inching closer to our place so they would like us to leave, if not tonight certainly at an hour’s notice,” homeowner Tom Harnly said.
Harnly’s home is under a Level 2 evacuation order.
He’s concerned about his home, but more so about firefighters on the front lines.
“I feel almost embarrassed that we have our home out in the woods in these exposed areas that put young men and some women at grave risk to protect our homes. I feel a little guilty about that,” Harnly said.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation but it is suspected it may be a sleeper — that is a fire potentially started by a lightning strike during last week’s storm.
Embers may have smoldered underground and then reignited Monday afternoon.